U of A scholar re­mem­bered for pointed po­lit­i­cal com­men­tary

Edmonton Journal - - INSIGHT - CLARE CLANCY cclancy@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/clare­clancy

Jim Light­body didn’t pull any punches.

That’s how friends and col­leagues re­mem­ber the Univer­sity of Al­berta pro­fes­sor who taught po­lit­i­cal sci­ence for 47 years and helped shape the prov­ince’s pub­lic dis­course.

His wit­ti­cisms were per­va­sive in lo­cal me­dia, said close friend and col­league Ian Urquhart.

“He told re­porters ex­actly what he thought. And, in do­ing so, he de­liv­ered a wealth of mem­o­rable quotes over the years,” said Urquhart, a U of A po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor, in an email.

He pointed to Light­body’s re­ac­tion to the res­ig­na­tion of then-premier Ali­son Red­ford in 2014 as just one ex­am­ple where he show­cased his tal­ent for po­lit­i­cal quips.

He crit­i­cized her speech as “a ca­reer place­ment ad” and not an apol­ogy, Urquhart said. “It was vin­tage Light­body.

“As Jim said, ‘Af­ter 43 years, one thing Ali­son Red­ford did do was to re­mind an aw­ful lot of peo­ple of why we’re tired of the Con­ser­va­tive party.’ ”

Light­body died on Oct. 17 at the age of 73.

He had fought a brief, but coura­geous, bat­tle with cancer, said his obit­u­ary.

“I couldn’t have asked for a bet­ter friend than Jim,” Urquhart said. “He was al­ways there for me and for the peo­ple of Al­berta. Com­men­tary on pub­lic life in Al­berta is much the worse for his pass­ing.”

Light­body is sur­vived by his part­ner of 26 years, Lisa Kline, his brother, two daugh­ters and five grand­chil­dren.

“His beloved dogs, Scooter and Tico, will miss him dearly,” said the obit­u­ary, which high­lighted his gen­tle na­ture, quick wit and his com­mit­ment to spend­ing Sun­days cheer­ing on the Min­nesota Vik­ings.

He also loved to travel, said col­league Greg An­der­son, also a U of A po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist.

“He had the travel bug, he al­ways seemed cu­ri­ous with how the places he vis­ited worked,” An­der­son said in an in­ter­view. “When he would travel, he would mar­vel at how Rome func­tioned.”

But it was in-depth knowl­edge of Al­berta pro­vin­cial and mu­nic­i­pal pol­i­tics that made Light­body a go-to com­men­ta­tor for me­dia in Ed­mon­ton, in­clud­ing the Ed­mon­ton Jour­nal.

“He was just re­ally, re­ally bright,” An­der­son said. "He worked with lo­cal politi­cians fre­quently.

“When (Mayor) Don Iveson was run­ning for city coun­cil ini­tially, the peo­ple around Don Iveson, they were knock­ing on Light­body ’s door.”

Light­body was ded­i­cated to teach­ing as well, mark­ing up dis­ser­ta­tions with de­tailed com­ments, An­der­son said.

“He had a very high set of stan­dards and ideals around aca­demic work,” he said, adding Light­body had planned to teach his last class in the fall be­fore re­tir­ing.

And when he was called upon to of­fer po­lit­i­cal anal­y­sis in news­pa­pers or on tele­vi­sion, he didn’t suf­fer fools lightly, An­der­son said.

“He wasn’t afraid to call it as he saw it ... I think he kind of en­joyed craft­ing zingers.”

He was mo­ti­vated to com­ment pub­licly by a sense of pub­lic ser­vice, not ego, Urquhart said. “No aca­demic com­men­ta­tor to­day has the grasp of Al­berta his­tory that Jim did.”

Light­body be­lieved in hold­ing politi­cians ac­count­able, he said.

“In Ed­mon­ton, for ex­am­ple, he felt strongly that the city ’s ad­min­is­tra­tion is out of con­trol.”

He oc­ca­sion­ally got things wrong, such as pre­dict­ing that the 2013 may­oral con­test be­tween Iveson and can­di­date Kerry Diotte would be closer than it was, Urquhart said. “But, he still knew well what can­di­dates needed to do in or­der to have a good chance of win­ning.”

Light­body, who was born in Winnipeg, earned a mas­ter’s de­gree at Car­leton Univer­sity in Ot­tawa and a PhD at Queen’s Univer­sity in Kingston, Ont. He went on to join the U of A fac­ulty in 1971 where he served as chair of the po­lit­i­cal sci­ence depart­ment from 2012 to 2015.

In 2016, Light­body was elected as a fel­low of the Royal Cana­dian Ge­o­graph­i­cal So­ci­ety. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pres­i­dent, John Geiger, said Light­body was a friend and men­tor.

“It is hard to be­lieve such a vi­tal force has left us,” he said in a state­ment.

Light­body’s obit­u­ary said of ev­ery­thing in his life, he was proud­est of his par­ents “who took a chance with a baby they did not know.”

An in­for­mal gather­ing for fam­ily and friends will be held at the South Side Me­mo­rial Chapel next Satur­day.


Univer­sity of Al­berta po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Jim Light­body was never afraid to speak his mind.

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